Panda Security’ malware detection and analysis laboratory has revealed how cyber-criminals are starting to use their own search engines to lead users to malicious pages, often created for distributing malware.

The new trend underlines how cyber-crime is becoming increasingly professional. Previously, cyber-crooks would use malicious SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or “blackhat SEO” techniques to improve the ranking of their pages among popular search engines. Now they are beginning to use their own search engines which lead users directly to pages designed to infect or defraud them.
One such malicious search engine, detected by Panda, has already received around 195 000 visits.
“We started searching for words and issues frequently exploited by cyber-crime, in this case swine flu, or celebrity names such as Britney Spears or Paris Hilton and this took us to pages created to distribute malware,” explains Jeremy Matthews, head of Panda’s sub-Saharan operations. “But then we found that even searching for our own names would throw up results that were really malicious pages.”
These search engines operate as follows: when users enter a word to find, the engine returns just five or six results. Clicking on any of these results will redirect the user to a Web page created specifically to distribute malware. The pages may include content such as pornographic videos, which ask users to download the latest version of “Web media player” in order to watch the clip. However, the file downloaded is really the adware WebMediaPlayer. These pages are also being used to distribute fake antivirus programs.
This technique is known as social engineering, and basically involves infecting users by enticing them to click a link or run a malicious file. To avoid falling victim to these attacks, Panda advises users only to use trusted search engines, and to be wary of websites offering sensational videos or unusual stories.
“If on this kind of website you are asked to download a codec or any other kind of program to watch videos, there is a strong chance that it is really malicious code,” warns Matthews.